The lyrical component, sometimes unintelligible, sometimes repetitively simple, and using familiar styles, combines with the track's laid-back musical energy. The visuals further complement these two aspects, a dreamily drifting camera hits the various marks at the exact moment an action is blocked out. What seems effortless is actually highly orchestrated. Setting: One deserted warehouse or large ex-industrial space. Characters: Childish Gambino, all spastic facial and physical choreography one minute, enviable rhythmic suppleness the next, and a cast of rioting, dancing, gospel-singing extras. And then there is the issue of executions by firearm. Not only deeply shocking, but unflinchingly depicted. Is the whole project calculated to extend a black viewpoint into contemporary political debate, or is it just a howl into the storm? Name-checks abound, Hunnid Bands, 21 Savage, Contraband, and Kodak Black are in there, plus rap track 'Blocka' (which is itself derived from the sound of automatic gunfire) along with references prettifying Gucci and (by inference) Twitter. Is black entertainment providing a soporific against the real violence going on outside, or is it promoting it?
Gambino resembles a man hustling to stay one-step ahead, lyrics constantly referring back to the 'Black Man', getting his money. If he stops moving then who knows what can happen, as the chaos escalates all around. Is he creating chaos or playing it?
His enigmatic coda is the disturbing image of his desperately fleeing from a potential lynch mob, eyes bulging in fear, while the song's last hopeless, impotent refrain plays out, it's softly-sung message unambiguous: "You just a black man in this world, You just a barcode, ayy. You just a black man in this world, Drivin' expensive foreigns, ayy. You just a big dawg, yeah, I kennelled him in the backyard. No proper life to a dog, For a big dog"
Is this your America?